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Thursday, June 02, 2011

Video Primer - part 1

There's a lot of specialized terminology associated with digital video. Even knowing what's going on in the DV (digital video) world requires navigating acronyms aplenty. Here's a quick run-down of some of the more common terms you'll need to know.

Codec: the algorithm used to code and decode video files in a compressed format. A codec figures out what information can be dropped out from each frame of a video in order to make it smaller. The more aggressive the codec the lower the video quality, but the smaller the file. Some codecs are: DivX, Xvid, MPEG4 and H.264.

File Type: This is the indicator for what type of program should be used to open a video file. This is different than a codec. An Xvid encoded video can be in the AVI file type or WMV or even MOV. Not every codec is compatible with every file type, but each file type can support different codecs.

Media Player: This is the program that reads the file type and decodes the codec to play the video. So Quicktime is Apple's video player. It reads MOV files and decodes them for play on your computer. You can't play a WMV file in Quicktime since that's the Windows Media Video file type and it plays in Windows Media Player, though both the WMV and MOV file might use the same codec. Typically AVI files are the most compatible across different media players.  One media player that can address nearly every file type and codec is the VideoLAN VLC player. It's what I use.

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